‘The Jungle Book’
(PG; 111 minutes; Walt Disney): The beloved 1967 Disney cartoon classic “The Jungle Book” takes on a dazzling live-action-ish life in Jon Favreau’s adaptation, a visual wonderment of color, texture, movement and spectacular animal life.
Brought to the screen with computer-generated animation, the Indian jungle of Rudyard Kipling’s original stories glimmers and shines here, with each fern frond and dappled glade enticing the viewer further into its primal depths. Whether it’s the sleek, glistening coat of the panther Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) or each individual hair painstakingly undulating on a she-wolf and her pups, every inch of “The Jungle Book” pulses with life, grace and authenticity. Even when this idyllic world turns ugly, it’s a thing of rare beauty.
That even goes for Shere Khan (Idris Elba), the wounded, perpetually enraged tiger and archvillain of the film, who makes it his life work to hunt down a little boy named Mowgli, who has been raised by wolves since he was abandoned in the jungle as a baby. Played by Neel Sethi, the only human being seen in “The Jungle Book,” Mowgli is an ecstatically dirty, feral child, given to howling with his canine brothers and competing with his protector, Bagheera, on swooping foot-races through the tree-tops. When Shere Khan sets his threatening sights on Mowgli — convinced that the child will grow into a destructive, marauding adult — it’s decided that Mowgli should return to his “own kind,” a journey fraught with untold physical and psychic dangers.
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In the midst of an otherwise traumatizing story, Bill Murray provides his signature, slightly snide comic relief as the honey-loving bear Baloo, while Christopher Walken seems to channel both Marlon Brando and Louis Prima as King Louie, a regal, copper-colored gigantopithecus.
Like all classic Disney productions, “The Jungle Book” possesses its share of fear, suffering and loss. But somehow the audience comes out whistling — in this case, with joy and quite a bit of awe.
Contains some sequences of scary action and peril. Washington Post
‘Me Before You’
(PG-13; 110 minutes; Warner Bros.): The Princess Leia buns and eclectic outfits Jojo Moyes wrote for Louisa “Lou” Clark in her novel “Me Before You” don’t disappoint on screen. Lou (Emilia Clarke) is decked out in her black-and-white furry striped coat, dresses patterned with butterflies and vegetables, and a wild collection of brightly colored tights and shoes that resemble the bouquet of multicolored daisies she holds in one scene.
Twenty-six-year-old Lou, who lives in a picturesque British tourist town, becomes a caretaker for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a wealthy local 30-something who’s paralyzed from the neck down. Will’s cynical sense of humor and outright rudeness doesn’t faze Lou; soon, the two seem to be in love, with Lou determined to convince Will (who is contemplating assisted suicide) to keep on living. Unfortunately, the story makes it seem as if Will, because of his disability, has no reason to keep living aside from maybe Lou’s antics.
Under Thea Sharrock’s direction, Clarke’s Lou is as adorable, clumsy and endearing as her portrayal in the book, and Claflin’s sarcasm provides a few necessary moments of comic relief. Overall, the film is sweet but often loses impact in its most serious moments by blasting a happy pop soundtrack.
Contains thematic elements and some suggestive material. Seattle Times
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